Google’s ‘moonshots’ must be allowed to continue


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It couldn’t last for ever. Google’s corporate structure – essentially a process of chucking high-tech spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks – was always more business mess than business model.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, having won the lottery a million times over with their genius search algorithms, created a beast that generated so much cash they could amply afford to sling it around on whacky pet projects that may or may not come off. Google Glass? Give it a whirl. Driverless cars? Could be cool!

In its restructuring, forged under the company’s new finance boss, Ruth Porat, order is being forged from the chaos. Google’s more extreme ideas – poetically known in techland as moonshots – will be hived off into a separate entity publishing its own financial figures. The core moneymakers – web search, Maps and YouTube, will be ringfenced under the Google name.

Wall Street predictably cheered, delighting in what analysts dubbed “a new era of fiscal discipline”. For the first time, they will be given an insight into how much cash Google pumps into its wilder inventions in its Google X, biotech and venture capital divisions.

But Google must not give too much power to Porat’s beancounters. We all need fabulously wealthy companies like Google to keep splurging money on high-risk innovation to improve our day-to-day lives.

And investors, remember: Maps, Gmail and Android looked like shots at the moon once. For all our sakes, don’t stop Google dreaming.